The Europa League returns on Thursday for the second leg of the round of 32. As always, I’ve looked for value Europa League tips and with this in mind I’ve picked two evenly balanced games for predictions and analysis.
Tottenham Hotspur v Gent Europa League Tips and Analysis
Spurs go into this game trailing Gent by a single goal after the first leg in Belgium. It’s an awkward scoreline, because it means a clean sheet is essential and two goals will be needed at a minimum to win in 90 minutes. Manager Mauricio Pochettino has clearly targeted winning silverware as he has sent out strong teams both in this competition and the FA Cup and I expect he will again on Thursday.
Gent on the other hand will have their league position on their mind. They know a top six finish is vital and at the moment they’re three points outside of that in eighth. With this in mind will they rotate their squad and hope to hold on to what they have?
The game is to be played at Wembley – Tottenham Hotspur’s home ground next season – and their record there isn’t great having won only one of three games there in Europe this season. Gent’s away record isn’t great either – they’ve won just one in their last eight in all competitions and have drawn their last three. However, they have only lost one in their last five Europa League away fixtures.
I’m torn on this game. By all rights Spurs should be Europa League tips to win this game easily but I’m not convinced they will. Gent will know that all they need to do is to shut up shop; if they can nick a goal even better because it means Spurs have to do even more. I think it has the potential to be a tight game – but one early goal could blow that out of the water.
APOEL Nicosia v Athletic Bilbao Europa League Tips and Analysis
Athletic Bilbao travel to Cyprus with a slender 3-2 league from the first leg. I have to admit, that was one of the more surprising results in the first leg – I would normally expect a Cypriot team to get smashed away in Spain. Athletic were certainly in control but a late away goal has left the tie finely poised and maybe gives APOEL a chance to complete a famous victory.
APOEL made the quarter finals of the Champions League only five years ago so maybe I shouldn’t underestimate them. Their home record is outstanding – 1 defeat in 31 in all competitions and a 100% record in their group games. With them only needing a 1-0 or 2-1 victory to advance, they have a fantastic chance.
Athletic are poor away from home. They picked up one point and scored one goal in their three Europa League away games while in Spain they’ve picked up just two points from 24 and have failed to score in their last four away games.
I’m convinced APOEL will do this – all the signs point to a famous victory for the Cypriots and more proof that they’re better than people might think. I’m actually shocked that Athletic are the bookies’ Europa League tips to win this tie – but that provides value for us punters.
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